Cambridge’s Kendall Square is well known as a hotbed for innovation, particularly in biotech. But starting this month, the area is getting an infusion of artistic innovation, too. Cambridge’s The Dance Complex has opened a new creative space called The Dance Complex @ Canal District Kendall (a.k.a. Complex@Canal) in a 4,000-square-foot retail unit at 650 East Kendall St.
The fully leased building, which also houses facilities for bioscience company Ipsen and pharmaceutical giant Takeda, now includes flexible studio spaces for dancers and artists working in theater, music, performance, installation, visual arts, and hybrid media.
Dance Complex’s executive artistic director Peter DiMuro said that after roundtable sessions with the dance community last fall, his organization had been looking for a storefront to use as a satellite pop-up studio to augment its space in Central Square. Given the dearth of suitable dance spaces, he and others in the arts community had been talking with BioMed Realty, a provider of real estate for technology and the life sciences.
A 16-story laboratory/office building planned for an empty lot at 585 Third Street is slated to include 30,000 square feet of space for arts and culture use, with construction expected to begin in March 2022 for a 2024 opening. In the meantime, the realty company offered to gift Dance Complex the use of the empty storefront at 650 East Kendall for one year, starting this month.
“While we’re looking forward to the development of the public theater and arts spaces at 585 Third St., we know that many artists are in need of space today,” said Andrea Windhausen, community manager for BioMed Realty. “Complex@Canal will meet that need, and we can’t wait to see what performers create there.”
“I literally cried,” DiMuro said. “It’s helped us reimagine what we can do.”
DiMuro envisions Complex@Canal as a quieter venue than the busy Dance Complex, a kind of creative retreat for self-designed mini-residencies with fewer than a dozen people in and out on a given day and, of course, COVID safety protocols in place. Dance Complex has invested in a sprung floor and drapes. A light grid and sound system were already part of the site, which DiMuro plans to further enhance to facilitate livestreamed performances and rehearsals.
“The space has beautiful glass windows so people walking by can see dance happening,” he said. “You might walk by and see Jean Appolon rehearsing in the main room and installation artists experimenting with screens and projectors in one of the small rooms, or someone in the office Zooming a Pilates lesson.”
The first artists already making use of Complex@Canal, including choreographer/performers Appolon and Callie Chapman, are the Dance Complex’s CATALYSTS program artists whose residencies were upended by COVID last spring. DiMuro’s team is reviewing applications from other artists, with a sliding scale of fees — $15-$25 per hour for nonprofits, $50 for commercial use.
“The application asks artists to tell us what they need, and we’ll figure out how to make it work,” said DiMuro, who hopes the Kendall Square outpost will break even through shared grant money and donations from individuals and businesses in the neighborhood who recognize the value of the arts. “I’m very proud that everyone from BioMed to the [Dance Complex] board and staff sees this as an expansion, when every instinct says we’re supposed to constrict — that we’re making something more at a time when we’re expected to do less.”
Karen Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.